Letters on Literary Devices 10: The Hard Period.

To all those who “go hard”:

 

When I first started writing, a certain “fiction writer” confronted me with a problem, well, he thought it was problem, with my overuse of the “hard period”. For those of you who haven’t heard of “hard periods” take my advice and resist the urge to search google for a definition. You won’t find one. You will, on the other hand, find several websites offering advice for women suffering from “hard periods” (We’re talkin’ menstruation here – not grammar…yea).

Anyway, the “fiction writer” said I used too many periods and should use more commas. He had a theory. His theory was this:  “There are different schools of proper grammar and writing style.  Some prefer periods, others commas.  I’m of the school of the latter, not only in my writing, but also my reading.” Having read his writing, (we had agreed to read each other’s manuscripts and offer advice), I knew that he was also a student of these other fine schools of literary thought: “The School of mind-numbing over-explanation”, “The School of telling everything and showing nothing”, “The School of boring the reader instead of entertaining him or her”, etc. etc. etc. The dude couldn’t write. Sure, he could string a sentence or two together, long, boring, painfully consistent sentences with no change in length or rhythm. But he couldn’t create suspense. He couldn’t create a book worth reading.

Now look, I’m not writing this to hate on the fella. He sucks. Whatever. It was fun while it lasted, but I have a point here: the hard period has a solid place in fiction writing. Sure, some critics will describe writing as choppy or “not flowey” when an author utilizes short, telegraphic sentences in abundance. But that doesn’t mean a writer should be afraid of “goin’ hard” when the occasion demands it.

Let me break this down for you. Typically, longer sentences are used for slowing down the pace of a novel. Longer sentences, particularly sentences whose subjects are disconnected from their verbs, disconnected perhaps by a string of phrases, disconnected by description after meaningless description, whose main point is obscured by clause after pointless clause, whose point still hasn’t been made,  which are so convoluted that you have to read them over and over to understand, cause the reader to read each word very carefully. Well, at least according to theory. But is that always the case? Look at that sentence I just wrote. Look at the one that started with “Longer sentences.” Did you actually read it all? Technically, it’s without grammatical error. Technically, it should make sense to you. But did you read it? Did you read it or just skim over it because it would’ve been a pain in the ol’ ass to read? (I just counted. There were 53 words between the subject “sentences” and the verb “cause”)

And that shows the obvious benefit of “going hard” and using the “hard period”. Shorter sentences are easier to read. The subject connects directly to its verb, its action (Like in that last sentence. The subject was “subject”. The verb was “connects”), which makes the narrative easier to follow because who and what each sentence is about is always clear.

And yes, this speeds up a narrative. But that ain’t gotta be bad. Short sentences are great for moving a plot and are particularly useful when describing action.

But wait folks, there’s more. Telegraphic sentences with “hard periods” can be used for changing up the pace, making strong points, or dropping the punch line on a joke. Just check out the second paragraph in this blog post. Check out the variety in sentence lengths. And check out that telegraphic sentence towards the end of it, “The dude couldn’t write.” EJO “goes hard”, that’s all I’m sayin’ (Please pardon the shameless self-promotion).

So, for all you writers out there who’ve been “goin’ hard” but ashamed to admit it; for all you who’ve tried to make your writing “flowey” afraid to embrace your inner “hard” self; don’t let your face turn red and don’t be overcome with fear. “Go hard”.

 

Sincerely,

Eric James-Olson

 

Oh, and one other thing. All four novels in the series are still on sale. They are priced between 2.99 and 3.99.  Check out these links if you’re interested:

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

About Eric James-Olson

Eric James-Olson writes novels and short stories. Currently, he's working on a coming-of-age novel set in the Panhandle of West-Virginia. Check out the "Novels by Eric James-Olson" tab above for the titles of his other books. In addition to writing, James-Olson is a high school English teacher, an amateur woodworker, and an outdoor enthusiast. He lives with his wife and daughter in West Virginia. View all posts by Eric James-Olson

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